Pace - IT Adaptive Tech Reviews
Monday, July 09, 2007
  Handheld Magnifier Comparison
Magnifying glasses have gone high tech. Digital handheld magnifiers do far more than a regular magnifying glass and their portability make them useful anywhere. The biggest advantage they have is the ability to change the magnification level to meet the need. Most can change the contrast and reverse or change the colors. For many, white print on a black background is very hard to read. These portable magnifiers can reverse that or show yellow print on blue or many other combinations. They also can make reading something in the dark possible since they light up the object you are looking at.

First the EnhancedVision Amigo. It is a nice unit with a tilting screen that makes it easy to read something that is lying flat on a table. There is also a writing stand that holds it up off the table so that you can get a closeup of where you need to write and makes room for your hand and pen. It is less than 2" thick and has larger screen, 6.5" diagonally. It also can connect to a TV to give greater magnification. The rechargeable batteries are a standard camcorder battery and can be replaced easily.

The GW Micro Portable SenseView is a very nice product and is cheaper than the Amigo and has a longer lasting battery, up to five hours continuous use. It is smaller but also costs half as much as the Amigo. It doesn't have the tilt-function or the ability to connect to a TV. Even though it doesn't have TV output it does have a video input. Both units have the snapshot feature so you can capture an image, like a number from the phone book, and then move the unit without losing the image. Both can view in color, B&W, or various other color modes. Since the SenseView can't have another battery plopped in when it goes dead they had the foresight to provide a battery meter so you can be prepared to recharge the batteries.

Head-to-Head Comparison:
Amigo vs. SenseView
6.5" screen vs. 4.3" screen
1.3lbs vs. 7.8 oz
3.5x - 14x magnification vs. 4x - 22.5x magnification
Tilt screen vs. No tilt
Video output vs. Video input
Battery replacement vs. Battery Meter
$1,695 vs. $795

In summary, I think the SenseView is a more cost effective and useful product but some features of the Amigo, like the Video Out or the tilt function, might make it worth the extra money for some uses. Neither is very good for reading something like a novel or textbook but for looking up a phone number or reading a medicine bottle they are incredibly versatile.
  Productivity with Multiple Monitors
Using multiple monitors is becoming much more common for computer users when they discover how helpful it can be. Laptop users find it the easiest to use multiple monitors because laptops have a port to connect an external monitor and the monitor settings can easily be changed to use the second monitor as an extended desktop or a mirror of the laptop monitor. Windows easily allows up to three monitors to be used as mirrors or as an extended desktop.

What are some of the benefits of multiple monitors. Here's a few scenarios:
1. A student with mobility impairments and has trouble managing print materials can have a word processor on one monitor, their resource material from a website on a second, and have their email or a second source open on a third. This is a lot easier than minimizing and expanding windows repeatedly or trying to squeeze two windows onto the same screen.

2. A laptop user needs a bigger monitor on a destop for aiding with a visual impairment but could use a zoom function on the laptop screen when unavailable. Different resolutions can be used on separate monitors, so something like photos could be full screen on one monitor while print is enlarged and scrolled on another.

3. A tele-commuter computer user may need to use a webcam for contacting co-workers but having their work materials on a second or third monitor will allow them to discuss the work without having a webcam window over the work.

Individual work requirements might create obvious needs for multiple monitors but awareness of the technical possibilities can encourage a relatively inexpensive computer upgrade to increase productivity and reduce fatigue.

Adding an extended desktop monitor to a standard Windows computer is easiest with a USB adaptor like the Tritton SEE2 USB 2.0 SVGA Adaptor. Only one Tritton adaptor can be used at one time currently. They run around $90 and they can be installed on any computer you wish whereas adding a new video card to your computer is more involved and not transportable.
You won't usually find a video card that has two VGA ports so you'll have to use another adaptor for the DVI port. In our project we wanted three monitors active on one computer and had to use both a new video card and the Tritton USB adaptor. You'll want to be sure that the video cards have enough power and memory to support the resolutions on the LCD monitors you are using but non-gaming needs have much lower capacity requirements.

In our project we were using a triple LCD monitor adjustable arm from Arcview. It is very flexible in locating and adjusting its placement. Someone who is using speech recognition software then they won't have to worry about access for keyboard and mouse but otherwise this arm will allow the monitors overhang the keyboard if you wish.

Some users find it easier to look up and down than side-to-side so you may need to consider monitors that are essentially stacked vertically. Two monitors are easier to support than three, as already mentioned, and may provide most of the increase in productivity with diminishing returns in adding a third.

In summary, there is a combined need for ergonomics and productivity in deciding to use multiple monitors. Having three poorly placed monitors is likely to be less productive and may cause more physical problems than one properly placed monitor so ergonomics is a large factor to consider.
PACE IT--Preparing Avenues for Competitive Employment in Information Technology (& Related Fields)

Technology evaluations for PACE-IT
What are the best products on the market to help you maximize your education and work experience? This blog will identify some of the strengths and weaknesses of various hardware and software items and combinations. If you have experience with some products mentioned, or questions, then please comment.

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